Our country needs a national paid leave plan Print
Thursday, Feb. 08, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

When I had children many years ago, I did not have paid maternity leave.

I was able to use my accumulated vacation and sick leave. But that meant that I had very little time off available the rest of the year. That was difficult, especially with young children.

First national leave law

Fortunately for other parents, our nation took a step toward a more family friendly future 25 years ago when the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law.

“It was the country’s first national law ever to recognize the challenges working people face when children are born or adopted, or serious health issues arise,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, in a statement marking the 25th anniversary of the FMLA.

She added, “The FMLA advanced women’s equality in the workplace, but it was only a first step. Today, with the country in the midst of another historic conversation about gender equality, paid leave is essential in creating the kind of lasting change women, families, businesses, and the next generation need.”

President endorses paid leave

I was happy to hear in President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech to Congress — which was heard by some 47 million Americans who watched on TV or online — that he endorsed paid time off for mothers AND fathers. It was a bold move for a Republican president, some said.

“My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water,” President Trump said.

Notice that President Trump didn’t say paid leave for moms, he said paid FAMILY leave. That’s a much bigger promise than what he said on the campaign trail, said a report on CNN Money (

“It’s hugely significant to say family leave,” said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family. “For a Republican, it’s unusual.”

When he was running for office, candidate Trump rolled out a plan to give six weeks of paid maternity leave, but only for working moms who give birth. Family leave typically means paid leave for moms and dads and for people caring for a seriously ill relative, such as a 75-year-old parent who has a stroke.

We need a national plan

The National Partnership for Women & Families says that as a nation, we have reached an extraordinary moment of consensus in the effort to win paid family and medical leave for all. There is now broad and growing agreement among voters, scholars, lawmakers, and business leaders, across political parties and ideologies, that we need a national paid leave plan.

But the details matter tremendously and any national plan we adopt must be affordable, sustainable, and inclusive, says the Partnership. There is a strong body of evidence from the private sector and successful state programs that demonstrates what works.

Debra Ness insists that it is past time for Congress to fulfill the promise of the FMLA by passing a national paid family and medical leave plan. She warns, “But not just any plan will do. Lawmakers should consider the evidence and support the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, the leading paid leave proposal in Congress.

“It would create a paid family and medical leave insurance fund, similar to those working well in states, that would make paid leave available to all working people for the full range of serious personal and family caregiving needs people have throughout their lives.”

I encourage concerned citizens to contact their members of Congress asking them to support this paid leave plan. It’s about time!